10:15 PM ET, October 22, 2005
Memorial Stadium, BERKELEY, CA
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- California's once-promising season hung on the brink, and Joe Ayoob seemed headed for another week of criticism on campus.
One incredible comeback with two clutch touchdown passes in the final minutes changed all that.
Ayoob completed a 9-yard scoring pass to Lavelle Hawkins with 1:50 left, and the 25th-ranked Golden Bears survived a second-half defensive meltdown to beat Washington State 42-38 on Saturday night.
"It's huge," said Ayoob, ripped by the Cal faithful following last week's demoralizing loss to Oregon State. "It makes things a lot easier. I don't doubt myself when it comes to the end of the game. To overcome that and make the plays that we needed to make at the end of the game, makes you feel good."
After Jason Hill caught three long touchdown passes from Alex Brink on the way to a career-high 240 yards receiving for the Cougars, Ayoob led the Golden Bears on one final drive with his top two receivers watching from the sidelines with injuries.
He hit a wide-open Hawkins in the back of the end zone and Cal (6-2, 3-2 Pac-10) avoided its first three-game losing streak in coach Jeff Tedford's four-year tenure and what certainly would have been an exit from the rankings for the first time in 21 polls since 2003.
"It would have been very easy for a team without character to just fold and wait until next week, but you don't get that with these guys," Tedford said. "This was the best comeback we've had as long as we've been here. It gives you a reason to believe that if you hang together, good things will happen."
Brink finished 18-for-39 for 423 yards and five touchdowns, and Jerome Harrison ran for 162 yards for his 10th straight 100-yard game, but the Cougars (3-4, 0-4) lost their fourth straight in frustrating fashion -- blowing a double-digit lead in the second half for the third time after starting the season 3-0.
"I don't have an answer," dejected coach Bill Doba said. "Little mistakes give up big plays. You have to finish. You have to have more points on the scoreboard than the other team."
Hill had his second career three-touchdown game and the teams combined for more than 1,100 yards of total offense. Hill hauled in second-half TD passes of 38, 62 and 38 yards -- the last of which was tipped by cornerback Tim Mixon before finding Hill's hands for a 32-28 lead with 3:05 left in the third.
Husain Abdallah intercepted a pass by Ayoob early in the fourth quarter, setting up Chris Jordan's 16-yard touchdown catch, but the point after attempt was blocked and the Cougars couldn't hold the lead one week after blowing a 21-point cushion and losing to UCLA 44-41 in overtime at home.
Walkon receiver LaReylle Cunningham caught a 57-yard TD pass from Ayoob with 5:19 left for his first career touchdown to pull Cal within 38-35. The Bears, playing the Cougars for the first time since 2002, ended a four-game losing streak to Washington State dating to 1998.
"I am just so happy I could make that big play," Cunningham said.
Hill extended his streak to nine straight games with a touchdown catch, and now has 23 career TD receptions to break the Washington State career record of 22 set by Hugh Campbell from 1960-62. Hill's yards are the most by a Pac-10 receiver this season.
Without two starting offensive tackles, top receiver DeSean Jackson sidelined with a shoulder injury and second-leading wideout Robert Jordan nursing a hurt collarbone, Cal relied on its defense early. The unit allowed five touchdowns in the air after giving up four in its first seven games -- none previously at home.
Greg Van Hoesen and Mixon each made key interceptions late in the first half to help the Bears break open the game with 14 points in a 90-second span on the way to a 28-10 halftime lead.
Van Hoesen made his first career interception and ran it back 16 yards for a score, then Mixon's 38-yard interception return on Brink's very next pass set up Ayoob's 3-yard TD pass to Chris Manderino.
Brink, who three weeks ago set a single-game school record when he passed for 531 yards against Oregon State, completed only four passes in the first half but managed 178 yards on those throws.
"We showed some good determination and made it a game," Brink said. "Four weeks in a row, we need to find a way to win. Leads don't mean a lot. I know we're good enough to win."
Ayoob threw for 274 yards and four TDs and Marshawn Lynch scored on a season-long 39-yard run on the way to a 160-yard game. Justin Forsett added 111 yards for the Bears. Hawkins briefly took a seat with 5:20 left in the third following a hard fall, but still came up big.
Brandon Gibson made a 66-yard touchdown catch with 10:32 left in the first quarter -- burning Mixon on the sideline route -- to give the Cougars a quick lead.
With kickoff at 7:15 p.m. local time, this was only the second night game ever at Memorial Stadium, where 52,569 fans turned out for the nationally televised game on a chilly Bay Area night.
Cal hadn't beaten Washington State since a 24-14 home victory in 1998.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Washington State's final drive was stopped on downs in the final minute. California then ran out the clock to complete its comeback victory.
Gameball goes to... Cal QB Joe Ayoob, who threw four TD passes, the last to his former San Francisco City College teammate, Lavelle Hawkins with 1:54 left.
Stat of the game... 3: The Cougars have blown a double-digit lead in the second half three times this season.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||8-19||5-15|
|4th Down Conversions||0-2||2-2|
|TD||10:32||BRANDON GIBSON 66 YD PASS FROM ALEX BRINK (LOREN LANGLEY KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 85 yards.
|TD||6:19||MARSHAWN LYNCH 39 YD RUN (TOM SCHNEIDER KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 65 yards.
|FG||3:07||LOREN LANGLEY 22 YD FG|
Drive info: 5 plays, 81 yards.
|TD||1:57||DAVID GRAY 22 YD PASS FROM JOSEPH AYOOB (TOM SCHNEIDER KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 73 yards.
|TD||2:34||GREG VAN HOESEN 16 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN (TOM SCHNEIDER KICK)||10||21|
|TD||1:04||CHRIS MANDERINO 3 YD PASS FROM JOSEPH AYOOB (TOM SCHNEIDER KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 3 yards.
|TD||12:01||JASON HILL 38 YD PASS FROM ALEX BRINK (LOREN LANGLEY KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 86 yards.
|TD||10:09||JASON HILL 62 YD PASS FROM ALEX BRINK (TROY BIENEMANN 2PT PASS FROM ALEX BRINK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 64 yards.
|TD||3:05||JASON HILL 38 YD PASS FROM ALEX BRINK (LOREN LANGLEY KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 87 yards.
|TD||9:52||CHRIS JORDAN 16 YD PASS FROM ALEX BRINK (BLOCKED XP)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 55 yards.
|TD||5:19||LAREYLLE CUNNINGHAM 57 YD PASS FROM JOSEPH AYOOB (TOM SCHNEIDER KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 62 yards.
|TD||1:50||LAVELLE HAWKINS 9 YD PASS FROM JOSEPH AYOOB (TOM SCHNEIDER KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 45 yards.